Are you in a relationship? With anyone? In reality we are in relationship with everyone we meet or even walk by. It is with some unspoken agreement that if you walk by someone that you do or don’t say hello (or make eye contact).
Let’s at this point just consider the important ones. Significant other, workmates, friends, business partners, family. Are you crystal clear about the roles you are each agreeing to? How do you know?
How much time have you spent making explicit agreements as your relationship(s) evolved? In my business I find that it is only when you disagree that you realize the answer to that question. And usually it is ‘not enough’.
When we get together with people it is usually because we have some affinity. We like what they say, what they are doing, how they look, etc. We talk and we are mostly relating to our imagination of who that person is because we can’t possibly know. And because we are limited to using words (mostly) to communicate, we don’t know until we do that when you said a particular word, they imagined something completely different than you did. And most often, there is no way to know it. We thought we were in complete agreement!
TRY THIS EXERCISE:
Take a minute to get comfortable. Now I am going to give you a word and I want you to fully imagine it in your head. Get a clear picture.
Okay…what (who) did you imagine? Maybe your own mom, maybe mother earth, maybe your children? Possibly there are more than one image, activities that you did with your mom, the special time you baked a birthday cake together, and/or particular feelings. Maybe your image conjured up feelings of nurturing, or possibly the opposite, maybe disappointment.
Can you now imagine anyone else having the exact same image(s) in their minds as you?
Let’s use the example of TREE… imagine a tree.
Likely no one else has the exact same image as you. Yet, when you talk you agree that you love trees, maybe you move in together and completely agree that you are going to plant trees. It may not be until you get to the nursery that you realize you had been imagining completely different things all along. You wanted a huge maple tree and your partner imagined a row of fruit trees.
This is when communication, self-awareness, care, compassion, curiosity (all the skills that Nonviolent Communication teaches) are critical.
Even when you do ‘have an agreement’, you may realize you can’t really count on an agreement with someone else. It may be simply because language and filters get in the way of actual understanding as in the examples above, simply different images/experiences are imagined when we speak. And, as often happens, it may be that the other person simply does something other than what they agreed to do. Possibly even just minutes or days after they made the agreement.
It really doesn’t matter what the agreements are or why the outside agreement is no longer in effect. What matters ultimately are your agreements with yourself. What needs/values you are committed to. Knowing this leads to confidence and trust. Confidence that you will trust yourself no matter what. Trust yourself to get your own needs met. Confidence that what ever the circumstance, you have other resources and/or strategies to get your needs met.
I am not suggesting that we don’t make agreements with others. I am full on in support of making agreements and often. However, I am encouraging you to stay out of the trap of depending on someone else to do what they agree to in order to be happy. The more you can keep your own agreements to your values, the more resourceful and creative you will be in connecting to life, meaning what is actually happening, and ask for what you want. Which may or may not include the person who just broke the agreement.